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Construction of Owens House, Chemistry Building Nearing Completion

By Harry Minium

Old Dominion University and W.M. Jordan Company officials say two major projects designed to expand and improve STEM-H education at the University are expected to open in the 2020-21 school year.

The new $75.6 million new Chemistry Building should begin hosting classes, labs and cutting-edge research in in the spring semester.

W.M. Jordan is also working to complete the $62 million Hugo Owens House residential facility, which will add 470 beds in a 165,000-square-foot, five-story building on 49th Street. It is expected to open during the fall semester.

The new facilities are part of an effort by state and ODU officials to create more graduates to fill thousands of jobs expected to open over the next decade for those majoring in STEM-H - science, technology, engineering, math and health sciences.

Owens House is a short walk from the Chemistry Building and other science and technology facilities, and most students who live there will major in STEM-H.

Named for civil rights icon Dr. Hugo Owens, ODU's first African American rector, Owens House will be the second-largest residential facility on campus and will contain facilities designed to help students study, work on projects and even take classes in their residential hall.

It will have classrooms, project rooms, a cybersecurity lab, a learning commons area, group study rooms, a faculty office and a large, multi-purpose room for events.

The 111,000-square foot, four-story Chemistry Building is located just beyond center field from the Bud Metheny Baseball Complex.

The Chemistry Building will provide ODU students and faculty with the newest and one of the most comprehensive chemistry facilities in Virginia, including larger chemistry labs and far more space for research that will allow for more collaboration between students and faculty.

Previously, chemistry classes have been spread across campus. Once the new building opens, all 6,000 students who take at least one chemistry class will be taught in one building.

"This beautiful new building will be a game-changer for any ODU student who takes chemistry courses," said Gail E. Dodge, dean of the College of Sciences and a professor of physics. "The facilities for undergraduate and graduate education, including research, will be absolutely state-of-the-art."

John Cooper, who heads the Chemistry Department, said the new facility will help ODU attract even more high-quality students and faculty.

The facility will have cutting-edge technology, including a 400MHz and 600MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, an atomic force microscope and a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer.

A digital theater/planetarium, which replaces the current planetarium at the old Alfriend Chemistry Building, will feature a 49-foot dome with 122 seats.

It will double as a lecture hall and will be capable of projecting 3-D proteins and molecules during lectures. It will also have live-streaming facilities that can show video in 4K.

A success center on the first floor will allow students to interact with faculty throughout the day.

"The learning activities that the first floor will support are currently spread out across campus in more than 30 locations, which presents a huge barrier to incoming freshmen," Cooper said.

"By locating these facilities (on the same floor), faculty and graduate teaching assistants will realize a significant synergy with regards to time and resources."

The upper three floors will contain labs with an open concept that will allow undergraduates and graduate students to collaborate and take advantage of the most modern amenities, including epoxy resin laboratory surfaces that can withstand heavy chemical use.

"Perhaps the proudest accomplishment with the new Chemistry Building is the extraordinary efforts we have taken to finally make chemistry and biochemistry accessible to students with disabilities," Cooper said.

"Working with the architects, we not only have a building that is ADA compliant, but ADA features have been designed to accommodate disabled students' top request: the ability to perform like any other student without continually asking for special assistance."

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